The reigning World Series champions continued bolstering their bullpen on Thursday. A day after trading for closer Wade Davis, the Chicago Cubs agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with former Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. The signing was first reported by Nikkan Sports and Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 8, 2016
Chicago Cubs Sign Koji Uehara
The 41-year-old righty has been in the major leagues since 2009, when he first came up with the Baltimore Orioles. He later pitched for the Texas Rangers before joining the Red Sox prior to the 2013 season. While he had some fine seasons with Texas and Baltimore, Uehara rose to national prominence as a dominant closer once he arrived in Boston.
In that 2013 season, which proved both tragic for the city of Boston and magical for Uehara and the Red Sox, Koji. En route to winning the World Series, Uehara put up some of the of his best numbers. He posted a ridiculous 1.09 ERA and a microscopic 0.57 WHIP, while striking out 101 batters. All three figures represent career-highs. He allowed just 33 hits and nine walks in 74.1 innings, and saved 21 games. Without Uehara, the Red Sox would not have won it all that year.
Over the following two seasons, Uehara notched a combined 51 saves. Injuries and age began to catch up with him in 2015, and he was replaced as closer by Craig Kimbrel in 2016. However, he remained a valuable member of the bullpen, recording 18 holds and seven saves on the year. In addition, Uehara’s career WHIP of 0.86 is the lowest in MLB history among pitchers who have tossed at least 400 innings.
Uehara put up some great numbers while in Boston, but he will primarily be remembered for his gregarious and fun personality. His brilliant smile and sometimes-violent high fives quickly made him a fan favorite. Though Boston decided not to bring him back for the 2017 season after trading for Tyler Thornburg, Red Sox Nation will never forget his contributions.
In Chicago, Uehara will pair up with Davis to anchor the back end of the bullpen. After losing Aroldis Chapman to free agency, the Cubs bullpen became something of a weakness for a short time. Over the last couple days, with the additions of Uehara and Davis, that weakness has been erased.